Monday, July 18, 2011

748. Children of a Lesser God (1986)

Running Time: 119 minutes
Directed By: Randa Haines
Written By: Hesper Anderson, from play by Mark Medoff
Main Cast: William Hurt, Marlee Matlin, Piper Laurie, Philip Bosco, Allison Gompf


301 down, 700 to go. Concluding our salute to William Hurt and wrapping up another bundle of 100 films, this morning I watched "Children of a Lesser God", a less than stellar Hurt film.

James Leeds (Hurt) begins work at a New England school for the deaf. With some different types of methods, he gets his students to open up to him more and use their voices and learn how to lip read, instead of always relying on sign language. When Leeds meets Sarah (Matlin), the school's janitor and a former student, he is taken by her. Leeds is told that Sarah has never spoken and though attempts have been made, she always relies on signing. Leeds eventually introduces himself and although she's stubborn at first, eventually Sarah slowly comes around. The two go out to dinner together and before long they're even living and sleeping together, as they've fallen in love. The entire time, Leeds tries his best to get Sarah to open up more to him and to speak to him, but Sarah continually refuses.


I had several problems with "Children of a Lesser God" and it's a shame, because it could've been really good, but I found it failing at many aspects. For starters, the biggest problem I had with the film is that a resolution to the main conflict of the story is never reached. The main conflict of the story being Sarah's refusal to let James help her. There's a really powerful scene where the two argue, which leads to very aggressive sign language from Sarah and eventually she screams at him, but beyond that Matlin's character never speaks and I know Matlin herself CAN speak. It just seems like the logical path in a film like this. Speech teacher meets deaf girl who won't talk, falls in love with her and he works with her to get her to use her voice.

The other big problem I had with the film was Hurt's constant repeating of everything Matlin's character would say with her hands. She'd sign, he'd say the words for what she'd sign, so as not to leave the audience out in the cold. I understand why they did this, but surely there was a better way. It became quite annoying, when Hurt literally repeated everything that she said and it almost gave her a voice, because really we were hearing what she had to say, just through the James character. I'm thinking maybe subtitles would have been the way to go. That way, you really silence Matlin and when she has her outburst near the end, it becomes even more powerful. Also, you don't have to have Hurt constantly repeating her dialogue and then delivering his own. It would've sped up the process and made everything flow a little better. The ending was also lax in my opinion, with it being dragged out for something like twenty minutes, with a lot of useless scenes that simply served to get to some kind of pointless resolution. Don't get me wrong, "Children of a Lesser God" has it's moments and Matlin is the show stealer with her performance, but for the most part, there was more bad than good, I think.

RATING: 5/10 We'll slice it down the middle and call it an average flick. I think a lot of my troubles were tons of nitpicky things, but some of them were also valid I think. I'll be back later with my 3rd TOP 20.


July 18, 2011 1:37pm

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